There are a few points I want to make about what is included in the Bill and about what has not been included in it. Deputy McGilligan referred, as did the Minister, to the fact that under Section 2 of the Bill there will be power to have a mixed jury from two different areas. It seems it will be unnecessarily cumbersome to have two different people sending jurors to the same jury panel. In Dublin, for example, it will mean that the city sheriff and the county sheriff will both be sending people to the same jury panel and in Cork the same, I think, will apply. That seems to be an unnecessarily unwieldy and cumbersome procedure. It will lead to a good deal of inconvenience and I think inevitably to some extra expense with no commensurate advantage.
While it is necessary to ensure that the persons qualified as jurors in one area would be liable to be called for another area also, at the same time it should be possible to devise a scheme by which they would not be called for the same jury panel.
Apart from what is in the Bill there are certain things not in it and whose inclusion would, perhaps, have made it a better Bill. Section 62, I think, of the 1927 Act provides that jurors are paid 5/- per man for a civil jury. There is a great difference between what 5/- was worth in 1927 and what it is worth now. In those days it would have met the juror's subsistence for lunch and, perhaps, for tea. Certainly, it does not do anything like that now and it is an unnecessary hardship on a man who has to serve on a jury that not merely is he away from his own business and suffering the loss of his absence but he also has to pay out of his own pocket for his subsistence. I think we must move with the value of money in that respect and that it will be necessary to provide in the immediate future that something other than the figure fixed 34 years ago is paid to those who do what is a public service. We must regard it as such to serve on a jury but nevertheless a public service which it is not reasonable to ask them to do at their own expense.
From time to time there is considerable agitation that jurors should be paid. It is very difficult to arrive at any method by which you can get a yardstick to pay people what they have lost on an equitable basis. The man employed by a big firm and who serves on a jury probably does not lose anything. He may have to do a bit of extra overtime to catch up on his work, but his firm continue to pay him. The man who runs his own business, a one-man business, loses very heavily in carrying out this public service particularly if he is involved in a case of any magnitude or one that lasts any length of time. It is very hard to find a method of reimbursement that is fair without the possibility that there would be a profit for serving on a jury for some and a loss for others. I would violently oppose anything that would mean in any circumstances that anybody could get a profit from so serving. However, that is an entirely different consideration to that of not being out of pocket to the same degree and the Minister should give that serious consideration.
Under Section 3 of the 1927 Act the only persons liable for jury service are rated occupiers of premises and included in the word "premises" are not only houses but lands. The tenant of a house or a flat in respect of which the landlord is the rated occupier is not liable for jury service. A person living in a house provided by his employers is not liable; members of the family of the person who is the rated occupier are similarly not liable. One can consider, for example, a man aged 58 who has three sons aged 25-30 living in one house. The father of the family is liable for jury service but none of the three sons are liable.
Because the number of people liable for such service is so seriously restricted their turn comes round unpleasantly often. If the number liable was extended it would mean a far lesser burden on those who are called because they would be called less often.
In these days I think none of us would agree that the rateability of a person is a proper test upon which to determine his liability for jury service. Certainly, with the extension in all social strata of the use of the flat which is not separately rated it would seem that there is undoubtedly a necessity to consider changes in that respect. I would urge the Minister, therefore, to consider such a problem to see if the numbers of those liable to be called could be extended to ensure that those who have to give such service would not be called too frequently.
In parts of the country there is a very great hardship imposed on jurors from the point of view of travelling. The most striking example is possibly the juror who has to travel from Castletownbere to Cork. I heard Castletownbere described by the Minister for Agriculture the other day as "a little place," much to the annoyance of Deputy Michael Pat Murphy. Whatever its size, it is about 100 miles from Cork. If a juror has to travel 100 miles to Cork and remain there for a fortnight to act on criminal juries without getting any expenses that is imposing a very unfair burden on one particular citizen.
One of the reasons why jurors are called more frequently at the moment is because the jury books are not brought up to date. I am advised that it may very often be 15 years before a jury book is revised. The revision is done under, I think, Sections 21 and 22 of the Act of 1927. If my information is correct—I think the Minister will find it is—it means that during the whole of that 15 years anyone who dies or reaches the age of 65 is removed from the book, but no new people are added. Therefore, the number in the book gradually goes down year by year and that means a more frequent rota and more frequent service for those who are left, putting on them an unfair share of this burden of public service.
I am told that in certain parts of the country there are people properly liable under the existing law for jury service, because they are rated occupiers. There are some who have been rated occupiers for ten years and upwards, but they have never been put on the jury panel because the jury book is revised so very seldom. So far as my own personal experience is concerned, that does not happen in Kildare. I am told that it is the position in Cork and there are people who can be identified in the city of Cork who should have been on the jury panel for the last ten years, but they are not on the panel because the book has not been revised. I understand the panel survives until it is completely and absolutely exhausted. That is a very bad arrangement. It is a matter to which the Minister should give immediate attention.
As Deputy McGilligan said, the Bill so far as it goes is welcome. My only complaint is that it does not go nearly far enough. It does not deal with some of the really outstanding and pressing problems. Even in respect of those with which it does deal, I think it could have dealt with them in a much tidier way.
I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to ask the Minister whether he has considered another problem in relation to juries, namely, whether it might not be better to have no jury at all in a civil action. There is universal acceptance that it is desirable that there should be a jury in a criminal action so that judgement will depend on the joint wisdom of several rather than on the particular determination of one; with the best will in the world, a judge might become prejudiced on certain aspects of a case before him. There are not the same dangers of prejudice in a civil action and I think my suggestion ought to be seriously examined. I shall not put it any further at this stage. The civil actions arise mainly out of motor accidents. Across the water juries have been abolished in such civil actions. I do not know whether or not that has been a success but I think the Minister would be well advised to inquire into its working there with a view to adopting a similar system here.
It is a matter—Deputy McGilligan will contradict me on this if I am wrong—for a jury to decide the manner in which it reaches a verdict in relation to damages. A system has grown up in which all 12 jurors write down a figure and that total is then divided by 12. That may be a convenient way for a jury to get out of this very onerous service but it can scarcely be held that such a system produces the results it should. Inevitably there is almost always one junior who feels so strongly—I shall use no stronger word—that the case is not being sufficiently appreciated by his colleagues and he adds a global figure ten times the figure he really considers appropriate. In that way he believes he will offset any wrong his colleagues will do.
For example, 11 jurors each write down £1,000; one juror writes down £30,000 though he believes about £1,500 would be a fair assessment. He writes £30,000 to counterbalance the others and bring the assessment up. When the system has come to that in terms of assessment of monetary damages I suggest it is time to examine it carefully to see whether or not something else might be substituted for it. I am not suggesting at all that it should be thrown out automatically and without examination. There are considerable dangers in doing away with it.
There have been considerable abuses in its working and it becomes therefore, so far as I understand it, a matter for consideration, and careful consideration, to decide whether it is better that the system should be retained exactly as it is or whether there should be some change. I think it is a pity when the Minister was bringing in the Bill to the House, even though I accept that it was on a limited field, that he did make the Bill on such a limited field and did not give consideration to the other matters I have mentioned.